Sunday December 8, 2019 | Greg Boyd
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us.
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
We often say that Jesus is the “mighty God,” but what exactly does that mean? How did he come and put on display the might of God? What does the Christmas story tell us about God’s might? The answers to these questions don’t fit common conventional thinking, but if we don’t understand the way that Jesus lived out the might of God, we miss everything.
In the book of Isaiah we read that a “child/son” was to be born, that is a human would be the “mighty God.” This is an outstanding and unexpected prophecy because it stands in tension with foundational aspect Jewish faith: God is not a human! Jews were expecting a Messiah who would be anointed by God, but not that he would be God. Prophecies like Isaiah 9 (also see Micah 5) largely fell on deaf ears because they ran counter to the most fundamental assumption of the Jewish faith, which was particularly intense around the time Jesus was born. There is one God, and he is not human. God is God, human are humans, and never do these two categories overlap.
The claims of Jesus and the teachings of the early church flew in the face of common religious assumptions. This leaves us with a couple of options. Either we accept that Jesus was telling the truth about his identity, in which case we should bow on our knee to him and confess him to be our “mighty God” and savior, or we accept that the whole kingdom movement in the first century was launched by a mad man — a lunatic.
However, we must be honest. Lunatics don’t typically become famous for leaving behind teachings that are revered around the globe and throughout history as among the wisest teachings the world’s ever seen. In addition, lunatics don’t usually succeed in convincing sane people that they actually are God incarnate. Nor do lunatics typically inspire people to engage in the most beautiful selfless acts of love the world’s ever seen, such as characterizes the earliest Christian movement that Jesus birthed.
Another option some claim is that the early church was simply lying about their account of Jesus. However, this is highly unlikely. Among other things, these disciples who claimed Jesus said and did these divine things were willing to undergo the most unthinkable forms of torture for their faith.
Christians had by this time become so widespread, so numerous, and so despised by the general population that Nero could ignite a mass uprising against them with the goal of exterminating this pernicious cult. What’s truly amazing is that we don’t have one record of any of the original Christians renouncing their faith. If any had, we’d likely know about it because Rome wanted to expose this cult as a lie. In this light, it’s impossible to imagine these disciples were lying when they report what convinced them Jesus was the embodiment of Yahweh. People don’t let themselves and their families get fed to lions and turned into Roman Candlesticks for something they know to be false. This simply means these disciples suffered for what they firmly believed to be true.
The message of this “mighty God” was shared through weakness. Throughout history, gods have been defined by their “might, ”and “might” has always been defined by the kind of powers humans have always lusted after. Humans have projected the kind of power we lust for onto “God” and “the gods.” But here comes the one human who actually is “the mighty God.” In direct contradiction to what humans have always uniformly said about “the mighty God” or “gods” throughout history, this “mighty God” promises no military victory or prosperity. To the contrary, this “mighty God” gets himself crucified out of love for the enemies who are crucifying him, and then turns around and promises his disciples that they too must be willing to suffer at hands of enemies, and out of love for enemies.